Everyone wants to be healthier, but some of us no matter how hard we try can’t extract ourselves from the spiral of bad habits like smoking or overeating. But what the conscious brain can’t manage, the subconscious might.
Dallas hypnotist Will Smith says after two or three sessions, he can usually help individuals or couples stop smoking. Smith, a board certified member of the National Guild of Hypnotists, begins a session by talking with the person to understand the goal.
He emphasizes that he doesn’t help them quit smoking.
"I don’t want to help them be quitters," he says. Instead, he helps them stop. That idea is even more important with hypnosis for weight reduction. "I help them reduce their weight. If you lose it, you’ll look for it again."
But while Smith says the process works, he’s also anxious to debunk myths about hypnosis.
"People think they’re losing control, but all hypnosis is self-hypnosis you do it to yourself," he says. "If you wake up and say it’s going to be a bad day, your mind will make it that way."
Despite the Hollywood approach, Smith says he doesn’t put people into trances to treat them.
"Most think they’ll be unconscious. Some are asleep, but most go into a relaxed state," he says. For those afraid of what they might be made to do, he assures people "you won’t do anything against your morals, ethics or beliefs."
His process involves screening his clients about what they want out of a treatment.
"Each time a person comes in, they fill out an evaluation sheet so we can work on what they need," he says. During the hour session, 10 to 15 minutes are spent in the relaxed state; the rest of the hour they discuss goals and, on subsequent visits, their progress.
While two or three visits are usually enough for smoking, more are needed with weight reduction. To drop 20 to 50 pounds, he suggests three to five visits and schedules up to 10 for more weight loss. While in a relaxed state, Smith makes sensible suggestions to help reduce weight slowly: Drink more water, eat slowly, exercise a little, have smaller portions, enjoy healthier foods.
Smith says that hypnosis will work on most people with normal mental capacity. Hypnosis won’t work on someone who is resisting or on someone impaired with drugs or alcohol, he says. (By law, he may not work on drug and alcohol cessation. In Texas, only a hypnotherapist, someone with a medical license, can.)
Hypnosis is also useful in helping people with sports-related injuries. Much of his practice centers on pain management. While new pain has a purpose (it won’t go away until you see a physician, a biological imperative to correct an acute problem), hypnosis does work on chronic pain.
"You can lessen your awareness of pain. If the focus is on the pain, you’ll feel it more," he says.
Smith uses an example of how awareness can change how something feels. He asks if I can feel my socks. Suddenly aware of them, I can feel nothing else. Smith says he uses that power of suggestion to carry the pain away.
Working with athletes, he says he noticed that they didn’t feel pain from an injury until after a game. During a game, the focus is on winning. "If the focus is on the pain, you’ll feel it more."
Success with hypnosis varies person to person. Smith says one 60-year-old man went from three packs a day to half a pack a week after the first session and stopped after the second. "Most stop immediately, some taper off," he says.
That doesn’t always work. Attitude is essential hypnosis works best with motivated individuals who can focus on a new, positive direction for themselves.
"Don’t set yourself up for self-sabotage." He says visualizing a longer, healthier life can do wonders for your outlook and for your physical wellness.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice – Body & Fitness print edition February 15, 2008